American Mah-Jongg Options

Getting Started

When you select Mah-Jongg from the title screen or the Games menu, first you will see the Mah-Jongg Game Setup dialog box.

In this dialog box you can select American, Chinese, Japanese, or Western Mah-Jongg. You can personalize the game by typing in your name. You can select the difficulty settings of your Artificial Intelligence ("A.I.") opponents. To play against human opponents (Windows 95 only), see Playing the Multiplayer Games Online.

When you are satisfied with the difficulty settings of your opponents, and American is checked, click on OK to go to the Options dialog box for the American Mah-Jongg game.

If you are a beginning player, ignore these options and click the OK button to begin playing. It would not do to start off by trying to familiarize yourself with these advanced options before you've even learned the basics! Skip down to the Setting Up The Game section, farther below.

The Dead Hand and Maj In Error options are offered because the computer makes it possible for a player to have a friendlier (less cutthroat) game against A.I. players than would be experienced against live players.

Dead hand

In a real-life game, there are several things that can cause a player's hand to go "dead." Too many tiles, too few tiles, or an exposure in error can cause a hand to go dead. In Shanghai: Second Dynasty, it is not possible to hold the wrong number of tiles (the computer world being more perfect than the real world in some ways). But it is possible to make an exposure in error.

What's an "exposure in error"?

1. To claim a discard and make an exposure which does not fit any hand on the card;
2. to make an exposure which only fits with a hand which must be concealed;
3. to have an exposure which commits you to a hand which is not possible due to discards on the table.

The Dead Hand option allows you to either play according to real-life rules (the computer declares your hand dead if you make an exposure in error) or according to friendlier rules (the computer does not declare your hand dead, so you can keep playing even though your hand is actually dead). This option is only possible in this computer game (in real life, someone is liable to declare your hand dead). Because this is a computer game (and perhaps a learning experience for you), it might become uninteresting, after being declared dead, to have to sit and watch the computer opponents play through to the conclusion of the hand. Thus you have this choice.

If you want the real-life experience (the computer will always declare you dead), turn this option On. If you want the friendlier experience (the computer will never declare you dead), turn this option Off.

When this option is On, the player is penalized instantly (player's hand goes dead; player no longer draws or discards) as soon as an exposure is made in error or as soon as a discard appears which causes the hand to die. When this option is Off, the player in such a situation would simply not be able to go Out (rather than having to go Dead). The win button will never light up if Dead Hand is Off and your hand is dead.

Maj in error:

When this option is On, the Win button is always lit up (at least on your draws and on others' discards). You are always able to falsely declare a win at any time.

If you want to have a friendlier game (one in which the computer won't let you make such an error), leave this option Off. If you want a greater challenge (more closely emulating real life), turn this option On.

Hot Wall

The Hot Wall option is based on table rules used by some American players. This option has four buttons-two to define what exactly the Hot Wall is, and two to define the action that is limited or penalized when the Hot Wall is in use. And of course a fifth button which determines whether the wall will ever be "hot" or not.

To play with a hot wall, click the square next to "Hot Wall" to put an X in it. During the game, when the wall is hot, the Wall counter (in the lower corner of the game display) is highlighted in yellow.

Last 8 Stacks vs. Dealer Wall

Some players define the Hot Wall as the last 16 tiles on the wall. Other players define the Hot Wall as the final remaining portion of wall in front of the dealer, which could be anywhere from 4 tiles to 24 tiles, depending on the dice roll. This option lets you choose which definition is used. If you want the size of the hot wall to be determined by dice roll, click the button next to Dealer Wall (put a dot in that button). If you want the size of the hot wall to always be 8 stacks, click the button next to Last 8 Stacks.

No Calls vs. Throw Penalty

Some players hold that during the time when tiles are being drawn from the hot wall, players are not allowed to claim any tiles -- wins are only possible through self-pick when the wall is hot. If this is the rule that you prefer, put a dot in the button next to No Calls.

Other players hold that when the game is down to the hot wall, "Thrower Pays For All" becomes the rule... under condition that the throw was "unsafe*." If this is the rule that you prefer, put a dot in the button next to "Throw Penalty."

*A throw is deemed "safe" if the thrower can account for three identical tiles (among discards or exposures)-unless the throw is a Flower, in which case it's deemed "safe" if the player can account for 6 Flowers (among discards or exposures). In our case, the computer can easily make this determination for us. If the throw is deemed safe, then everybody pays as they normally do; if the throw is deemed unsafe then the thrower pays for everybody.


Some American players allow a player to request a redeal (a "frish") before the Charleston, if the player gets a very bad deal. If you want to have the chance to Frish the tiles like this, put a dot in the button next to Frish. Then, every time you get a new deal, you will have the option of Frishing or keeping the original deal.


Some American players allow for an additional exchange of tiles after the second Charleston and courtesy pass. All players throw their unwanted tiles into the center of the table and they get mished around. Then all players take back the same number of tiles they'd put into the pot. If you want to have the chance to Mish the tiles like this, put a dot in the button next to Mish. Then, after every courtesy, you will have the option of Mishing some more tiles.


Playing American Mah-Jongg requires the use of a special card. You need an actual printed card to play Shanghai Second Dynasty's American Mah-Jongg game. The American Mah-Jongg Association's year 2000 card comes included with Shanghai: Second Dynasty. You should keep the card in front of you as you play (lean it against the monitor or keep it beside the keyboard) so you can quickly refer to it when dealt a new hand and when changing the hand during play.

In addition to the printed card, there is also an identical software card file in the game's Cards folder. As you use the printed card to choose a hand, the computer uses the software card file to choose its hands (and to judge the validity and score of the hand you make).

When you first install Shanghai: Second Dynasty, there is only one card file in the game's Cards folder, so you can ignore the Card option on the Game Setup dialog. You only need to use this option to select a different card if you create a custom card using the card editor or if you download an updated card file.

The American Mah-Jongg Association will be creating new printed cards in the future, and Activision will create new software card files to accompany those. You may be able to download the updated card file from Activision's website, or you can use the card editor to program an updated software card file yourself.

If you create your own custom card, or if you want to play using a later downloaded/updated card file, click the down-arrow button to see the list of cards in the Cards folder. (If you create a card file or download an updated card file, you have to place the card file in the Cards folder in the game directory).

If you want to play this game with a different card (a card other than the American Mah-Jongg Association 2000 card that came with the game), you have to go into the game and create a custom card file, using the Card Editor. If you want to play with a custom card which you create yourself (rather than using someone else's card), you can print out the card that you create.


Click this button to return all the options to their original recommended settings.


Click here to go back to the Mah-Jongg Game Setup dialog box and choose a different style of Mah-Jongg, or to not play Mah-Jongg at all.


Click this button when you are ready to start playing with the selected options.

Click on the underlined part of this chapter you want to read next:

American Mah-Jongg Part 1: Basic Info

American Mah-Jongg Part 2: Options

American Mah-Jongg Part 3: Let's Play Already!

American Mah-Jongg Part 4: Scoring and Strategies

American Mah-Jongg Part 5: How To Make Your Own Custom Card